The Word From Ward - FA Cup Rd 3
Aside from ensuring Norwich safe passage to the 4th round of the FA Cup, Saturday`s clash at Peterborough afforded the players outside the starting eleven a rare opportunity to shine.
Hughton`s men overran the Posh from the off. And after the ball flashed past Declan Rudd`s post into the side-netting within the opening five minutes - the only heart-stopping moment for the Norwich faithful - it was plain sailing from there on in.
Agreed, Peterborough were abysmal, but today was a showcase of what Norwich`s secondary ranks were capable of. Logically, it seems appropriate to delve a little deeper into the individual performances, just to take stock.
Rudd - (6.5)
Was rarely tested, but rose well on high balls and looked comfortable throughout. Slight communication issues with the defense and failed to come out to collect long balls on a couple of occasions. Difficult to make any comprehensive assessment given Peterborough`s gun shy performance.
Russell Martin - (7)
Stalwart effort at his former stomping ground. Coped well in defense and made some decent forays forward, linking up with Snodgrass well to drive the attack up the right flank. Certainly staking a claim to challenge Whittaker`s starting position at right-back.
Leon Barnett - (7)
Rarely challenged and dealt with Peterborough`s strike force with aplomb. Was exceptional in the air and potentially won every single one of his aerial duels. One caveat, however: Peterborough decided not to field a striker for a vast period of the first half and opted not to pressure the defence, making Barnett`s duty a considerably easier task.
Marc Tierney - (6)
Slightly disappointing. Defended competently for the majority of the game but was beaten a number of times down the channels. However, it was his distribution that let him down the most - too many hopefully long balls saw him squander possession unnecessarily on a frequent basis.
Ryan Bennett - (7)
Bounced back from a poor showing against West Ham on New Year`s Day. Never really came up against any trouble, but when called upon he stepped up to the plate with verve and composure. His distribution was first-rate and was strong in the air. As with Barnett though, his performance was enhanced by Peterborough`s lack of offensive firepower.
Bradley Johnson (8)
Exhibited the sort of quality that has made him a permanent fixture in Norwich`s starting eleven this season. Incredibly strong and combative in the middle of the park, comfortably winning the ball on multiple occasions and retaining possession with ease. Provided first-rate defensive cover whilst linking up well with his more offensively-inclined teammates.
Fox - (7.5)
Many a Norwich fan had been clamouring for Fox to get more game time this season, and Saturday`s performance showed why. Spread the play across the park innovatively and provided the offensive pivot to the majority of Norwich`s attacks. Launched a superb looping ball over Peterborough`s hapless backline to release Jackson for the second goal.
Lappin - (5)
Put in a decent enough shift defensively speaking, but was often guilty of being slack in possession, losing the ball with regularity and misplacing passes far more frequently than was acceptable. Despite my love for the King of Spain, I would not be surprised if that was the last we saw of him in a Norwich shirt.
Snodgrass - (9)
A cut above the rest. Deservingly slotted one home towards the game`s death and almost had another to his name with a curling free-kick just before the interval. Linked up exceptionally with his teammates, provided the assist to the first goal, and was the driving force behind most of Norwich`s offensives. A personal favourite of mine, Snoddy has quite rightly become one of the mainstays of Hughton`s starting eleven and provides the sort of tricky wing play and inch-perfect set piece delivery that have, and will continue to, pay dividends in this season`s campaign.
E Bennett - (8)
Deputised exceptionally in the hole for Hoolahan, picking up where he left off after a game-changing showing at Upton Park last week. Broke the deadlock with a decent finish and troubled the defence with his pace and vision from the off. After this calibre of performance, perhaps Hughton will look to Bennett to play a greater role in the first-team as he did for the bulk of last season.
Jackson - (6)
I`m going to go against the grain here and say that Jackson put in a lacklustre performance on the whole. Despite taking his goal fantastically well, that was the only flash of brilliance he had all game. For the most part, he rarely troubled Peterborough`s distinctly ordinary defence and lacked the cutting edge of a Premier League level striker. Granted, his play was at times neat and he kept the attacks flowing, but he should have done far more against a defense of such poor quality.
Butterfield - (6)
Looked hungry to impress, but this often led to him trying to do too much and was often caught dwelling on the ball. Overall, he made little impact, but was primarily a victim of timing, since his introduction came as the game was winding down with Norwich happy to let the game plateau.
Overall, it was a great performance all-round and fine day out on the terraces for all involved. The player`s rose to the challenge with ease and gave Talksport`s Adrian Durham a little food for thought.
Having said that, I was disappointed that Howson didn`t feature since he deserves the opportunity to prove himself as the talent he undoubtedly is. Butterfield, too, should have had more game time, particularly since his chance to shine came as the game had essentially reached its conclusion.
On the back of this performance, I strongly feel as if Elliott Bennett should get a start in the near future, particularly given Pilkington`s weak form as of late. His composure, professionalism and pace were crucial in Norwich`s attack last season (I watched the season review last night) and he could well be the player Norwich need to get the season back on track. His showing at West Ham was a testament to this - his introduction rallied the team and had a profound impact on the game.
Unfortunately, whilst some seized the opportunity, other`s didn`t. Lappin was particularly off-the-pace, and as I said above, his days in yellow might well be numbered.
Jackson, too, may find himself with even fewer prospects of first team action at the end of the transfer window, especially since his game isn`t exactly well suited to the lone-striker system that Hughton currently employs. It`d be a shame, since he was instrumental in the promotion push and does have a goal in him, but right now, we need all the firepower we can get.